Diaz, Junot. Drown. Read by Jonathan Davis. Westminster, MD: Books on Tape, 2007.

Here’s the thing. Anything you read by Diaz is going to feel like heavy drinking in a rough-around-the-edges bar; the kind of place where it’s too dark to see; where the soles of your shoes are sticky-stuck to the floor and there is the obsessively constant need to wipe your hands and mouth. Diaz has that conversational, lean in and listen way of talking that sounds slightly conspiratorial but always brutally honest. While the stories change direction and voice, the messages of culture, society, family, tradition and passion do not. Powerful characters are matched only by their fierce loves and tragic losses. Their triumphs and travesties are spilled across the page with a “so what?” wild abandon. It’s as if you are elbow to elbow with Diaz as he whispers to you lush stories from his childhood, his coming of age, his entire history. Every story is intensely personal. But, But! But, all the while you are aware that this bar, these stories – this is his turf and you are not safe without him there. You need him to keep talking.

Reason read: supposed to be read in honor of the Merengue Festival that takes place sometime in late July/early August but as a series of short stories, read in honor of June’s national short story status.

Book trivia: Here’s what kept me up at night – the story of the kid whose face was half chewed off by a pig. You meet his tormentors, children who don’t understand the need for him to wear a mask. But then later, you meet the poor child and it rattles you to the core.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Dominican Republic” (p 54).

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